After a season that was plagued by injuries, Aston Villa have finally been dealt some good news ahead of the biggest game of the season, with Tim Sherwood announcing that four senior players have returned to training following injury.
In his pre-match press conference, Tim Sherwood revealed that Shay Given, Kieran Richardson, Aly Cissokho and Jores Okore have all returned to training. This is a massive boost to Villa, who were without all four during last Saturday's disappointing defeat to Burnley.
Sherwood also alluded to his starting line-up for Saturday's game saying:
"The core of it is there but there are still places up for grabs and we have another day of training, but with our track record we will probably lose a couple with injuries. It's hard but as a manager it's your job and you have to pick the team and do a job for the club, it's nothing personal it's just about trying to win that game."
If he is fully fit, it is expected that Shay Given will start between the sticks ahead of Brad Guzan, who has dropped down the pecking order in recent weeks following his error against Manchester City last month. It would be hard to argue this, given(!) that Shay has featured in every round of the cup so far for Villa, a cup run that featured a truly world class save against Leicester City in the Fifth Round.
The position of left-back is, and has been Aston Villa's biggest weakness for a number of years now, and this has been particularly exposed in recent weeks when the likes of Alan Hutton and Charles N'Zogbia were used as makeshift left-backs. Bearing this in mind, it is actually something of a relief to have Kieran Richardson back. Who would have thought that?! Whilst still a liability, he at least possesses positional awareness that Hutton and N'Zogbia lacked. If Tim Sherwood isn't going to play Matthew Lowton at left-back, and there's no evidence to suggest that he will, Kieran Richardson is the next best thing. As for Aly Cissokho, aside from an U21's cameo against Newcastle last month, he has not been seen or heard from. I wouldn't expect to see him in the squad at all come Saturday.
Finally, we have Jores Okore. Solid for most of the season, he looked laboured against Southampton and it was later revealed that he was suffering from a knee problem . Whilst it is great that he is back involved, I would expect him to start on the bench with Ron Vlaar and Nathan Baker ahead of him. It's not all bad news for the young Dane, neither Baker or Vlaar have a great track record when it comes to injuries, so don't be too surprised to see Okore feature at some point.
Who knows how Aston Villa's season might have gone if it hadn't been ravaged by injuries? At this point though, who cares? Tomorrow is the biggest game in recent history for the club, and injury ravaged squad or not, I truly hope that they can go on and win it. Come on Villa, Fight Like Lions!
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